Pastoring the Institutional Church

Churches are God's appointed centers of truth in the communities.

By ALGER JOHNS, Pastor, Sligo Church, Takoma Park, Maryland

Churches are God's appointed centers of truth in the communities. If, however, the organization of the church is faulty, if the pastor has to work with men who never agree with him—or men who never disagree with him—if methods of work cause dissension, then the very purpose of God's truth is hin­dered, and the light of salvation burns with an uncertain glow. The pulpit and the pew de­mand "master workmen," not jealous antago­nists. Unity is imperative. A successful army is composed both of trained officers and of trained men. In this day when forces of evil use every means to hinder truth, the church needs special training. Trained lay members can compass a town, and the power of the message can be felt in every home. But the work must be well organized. One member cannot separate from the group and expect to accomplish much working alone.

Several methods have been used successfully to bind together our institutional organization in the Sligo church, which is composed of three distinct groups—resident, college, and sanitarium membership. Band organization in these three divisions, together with the church bulletin, has done much to aid in the work. Each division is subdivided into mis­sionary bands which function throughout the year. Territory is apportioned in which the bands are responsible for the distribution of literature and giving Bible studies.

There is great need in our institutional churches for a definite outlet for latent re­ligious energy, and the students form a vital part in pushing the work onward. All three divisions of the church have inaugurated evangelistic efforts, instituted needed reforms, and supported the local work as well as for­eign-mission endeavor. This work has reached out into the life of the community and adjacent territory. Seven school groups are now en­gaged in definite evangelistic services under the leadership of the college Bible instructor. A number of branch churches have been estab­lished in various sections of Washington and its environs. Pastoral assistants for these smaller congregations are recruited from the ministerial students at the college.

Mutual necessities bind the three large divisions of the Sligo church closely together. Our weekly bulletin has helped materially in this welding process, and we consider it our strongest method of advertising. It is passed out to friends and neighbors, and absent Sab­bath school members receive it by mail. It unites our divisions in thought and labor, informs those not of our faith as to what we are doing, brings members into close Christian relationship, and helps to finance the church. A section is devoted each week to the amount of offerings received, our needs for church expense, etc. Since its inception, church ex­pense has not been mentioned from the pulpit.

Vital Place of the Church Bulletin

A successful church bulletin, whether it be produced weekly or monthly, acts as a pastoral assistant. At times it may seem that the cost is prohibitive; yet the return in good accom­plished far exceeds the cost. Sometimes a pastor feels that his work is so heavy that he cannot bother with a bulletin ; but the results are well worth the pains it takes to produce it. A printed bulletin is of course the best. If the cost, of printing seems prohibitive, it is possible to raise the money through business advertisements on the back page. However, this seems to cheapen the bulletin, and takes it out of the strictly church class.

Perhaps the least expensive method of pro­ducing a bulletin is to secure a mimeograph and stencil-cutting outfit. The A. B. Dick Company, Chicago, sells ready-made stencil designs especially for church bulletins. These may be copied on the stencil, and will make it a really attractive, dignified-appearing me­dium.

Our Sligo church bulletin is printed, and we try to make it contain a comprehensive picture of the activities of the people it represents—well balanced in social, financial, and spiritual content. It is a four-page organ. The cover, or two outside pages, is printed in large quan­tities, as the content of these two pages need not change from week to week. The cover may contain the name of the church and an appropriate picture, the name of the pastor and other leading officers, together with ad­dresses and phone numbers.

The back page may contain all the names of the officers of the church, or other features. One feature that has proved of great benefit to us is the use of three blanks on this page—the Pastoral Assistance Blank, the Member­ship Application, and the Missionary Worker's IndiTdAttl Report. Use of the latter, an exact duplication of the regular weekly missionary reporting blank, has proved especially suc­cessful in inducing increased reports.

By printing these two outside pages in quantities, the cost is materially reduced. Only the composition of the two inside pages is changed each week. On these pages appear the daily program for the week, including current activities and the Sabbath order of service. Changes are often made in the other subject matter, designed primarily for specific purposes and special occasions.

One feature that has been effective is "Church Standards." Under this heading are the words, "What Membership in the Church Means to Me," followed by a short paragraph on some phase of our message. The Bible teaching on tithing and every other doctrine is easily and consistently brought before the entire membership in this way.

Many listen to announcements on Sabbath, but do not hear or remember them, and the bulletin proves a constant reminder. It takes the church to the home. It broadens the ap­peal, and more people are thus interested. God wants us to use all good available methods in His work. However, only by Bible study, much prayer, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit will the work go forward. Methods, however effective they may be, are but tools in the hands of God's workmen.


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By ALGER JOHNS, Pastor, Sligo Church, Takoma Park, Maryland

July 1940

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